Griz to compete at Mountain State Games

The Montana track and field teams will be in Pocatello, Idaho, this weekend for the two-day Mountain States Games. The large meet, which features collegiate, open and high school competitions, will be held at Idaho State’s Holt Arena.

Not only will the level of competition be upped for the Grizzlies, who have competed at smaller meets at Montana State the last two weeks, but Idaho State, which has a unique indoor track, is hosting the Big Sky Conference indoor championships late next month.

“Our kids don’t get to run down there very often, some maybe only once or twice in their careers. It’s extremely different compared to where we’re always competing (at Montana State),” said UM coach Brian Schweyen.

“The track is all boards and it’s loud, and it has six lanes (instead of MSU’s four) with steeper banks, so it’s different. Since that’s where conference is, it will be nice to go down there and let our athletes get used to running on that and get a feel for what the facility is like.”

The meet will open early Friday afternoon with the men’s heptathlon and women’s pentathlon. Montana will not have athletes competing in either of the multi-events.

Friday evening will feature the preliminaries of the 60 meters, 60-meter hurdles and 200 meters, plus the 5,000 meters and distance medley relay. The field events being contested Friday evening will be the men’s long jump, pole vault and weight throw and the women’s high jump, long jump and shot put.

Everything else will be held Saturday.

With the Big Sky championships just a month away, Montana has nine athletes on its women’s team with 13 qualifications in nine events and six men’s athletes with 10 qualifications in six events.

Those numbers may look small, but that’s a result of tougher qualifying standards the last two years. Through last weekend, some events have as few as a single automatic qualifier from the Big Sky’s 11 programs, with most holding between five and seven.

Events that don’t reach capacity for the championships through automatic qualifications will have fields drawn from the Big Sky performance lists.

“Qualifications are tougher than they used to be, so what we have for numbers at this point is fine, but we still want more,” Schweyen said. “Every week I want to increase qualifications and performances.

“If you look at our athletes, they’re performing great. We’ve had some nice, consistent marks and some surprises as well. I like where we’re at right now.”

The List of 10 Important Items

1. Friday night will feature the distance medley relay, an event Montana won at the Big Sky championships four straight years between 2008 and 2011.

The team that will be racing for the Grizzlies Friday night is strong enough that it feels necessary to report that the school record is 11:36.27, set by Kesslee Payne, Emily Eickholt, Annie Moore and Katrina Drennen at Washington in 2011.

Montana will use a team Friday made up of freshman Reagan Colyer in the 1,200 meters, senior McKenzie Luth in the 400, redshirt senior Kourtney Danreuther in the 800 and redshirt junior Keli Dennehy in the 1,600.

Dennehy is a Butte High graduate.

“That should be a really, really good DMR, maybe our best ever,” Schweyen said.

The one trouble with racing at Pocatello is the altitude of 4,539 feet, since school records are raw times only, not ones altitude-adjusted. Using the adjustment, a time of 11:45.57 at ISU would match the school record of 11:36.27, but only a time of 11:36.27 or faster on Friday will go in the record book

2. Colyer broke the UM indoor 800 meters record on Friday night at Montana State, clocking a 2:11.04 to break Michelle Barrier’s time of 2:11.06 from 1989. Altitude-adjusted times have come in under the record — most recently Brooke Andrus’s 2:10.93 in 2010 — but no raw times.

The outdoor 800 meters record will be more of a challenge. Barrier ran a 2:07.94 in 1987.

Colyer’s time was the best in the Big Sky this winter, but it did not result in her receiving Big Sky women’s track athlete of the week honors. According to Big Sky athlete-of-the-week metrics, Northern Colorado’s Rachel Hinker’s 60 meters time of 7.52 at Air Force was considered better.

After leading off the distance medley relay on Friday night, Colyer will compete in the mile for the first time Saturday afternoon. Montana already has the No. 2- and No. 3-ranked milers in the Big Sky in Dennehy and sophomore Sarah Hastings.

“Reagan has the right mindset and perfect attitude, so she’s going to be good at whatever she wants to be good at,” Schweyen said. “You know she is going to run the mile hard and smart, and usually that means a good performance.

“I’m not looking for an off-the-charts mile, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it was a great time. She’s a competitor. She knows how to compete and focus, and that will only get better with experience, and her confidence will only get better.”

3. Sophomore Sammy Evans could become a three-event automatic qualifier in the coming weeks. She already ranks No. 2 in the Big Sky in the triple jump behind senior teammate Kellee Glaus, but Evans could be a factor in both the high jump and long jump as well.

She’s gone 5-3 in the high jump in her career, and last week, in her first collegiate try at the long jump, she went 17-10.75. The qualifying standard for the high jump is 5-5 and the standard for the long jump is 18-4.5.

“Sammy is our fastest athlete down the runway. She just needs some time to work on the (long jump) takeoff,” Schweyen said. “When she gets her takeoff down with her speed, she’s capable of going a long ways.

“She brings a lot of confidence and intensity into the triple jump. She needs to bring that confidence and intensity into the long jump and high jump and she can be a 5-5 or better high jumper and 19-foot long jumper. She just needs to wrap her head around all three events.”

4. There was a lot of excitement about the signing last summer of Dominique Bobo of Wichita Falls, Texas, especially after Bobo won the Texas Class 3A state title in a time of 21.39.

At two indoor meets this winter, Bobo has posted altitude-adjusted times of 22.69 and 22.56 in the 200, which rank outside the top 16 in the Big Sky.

“He’s training harder than he’s ever trained before, so he’s going through a learning process,” Schweyen said. “He’s not someone who can have the volume that some of our other quarter-milers can, so we’ve been tailoring his training a little bit. Mostly we’re going to race him into shape.

“Every week he races he’ll get better and better, and as he races more and more, he’ll get faster and faster.”

Will Bobo have a signature event? Talk to Schweyen, and he mentions everything from the 100, 200 and 400 meters to the long jump.

“Whatever Dominique decides he wants to be best at, that’s what he’ll be best at,” Schweyen said. “He has the ability to be great in the 200 and 400, and I think he can be a great long jumper, and I even think he can be a great 100-meter guy.

“It’s whatever he wraps his head around. I think he can do all of it, and that’s what we want. We want athletes who can help us in more than one or two areas. That’s what builds a great team.”

5. Colyer wasn’t the only athlete setting a new school record on Friday. Redshirt senior Keith Webber went 17-1.5 in the pole vault to break Adam Bork’s record of 17-1 from 2002.

In the long term, Webber will be going after Bork’s outdoor record of 16-10.75, also from 2002, and attempting to make his first trip to outdoor regionals.

In the short term, Webber is a favorite to become a first-time Big Sky Conference champion next month after four times finishing fourth.

Webber ranks first in the Big Sky, and not by a slim margin. No other pole vaulter has going over 16 feet this winter, which is good news for both Webber and senior Kaleb Horlick, who has gone 15-11 this season and has a PR of 16-4.75. Horlick has not finished better than fourth in his career either.

When asked if it’s better to be head and shoulders above everyone else in the Big Sky or to have one or more athletes also at the 17-foot mark, Schweyen said, “It depends who you are.

“Some people would be glad to see there is no one else really challenging your mark, and some want to be pushed. For Keith, this is probably a good situation, because it keeps him confident. He doesn’t have to worry about beating anybody, just going higher every week.”

Like Colyer, Webber also was not named Big Sky men’s field athlete of the week after his performance. That award went to Sacramento State junior Zach Coniglio, who went 60-10.5 in the shot put last weekend.

Coniglio’s effort is No.1 in the Big Sky and ranks No. 24 nationally. His mark is more than five feet better than anyone else’s in the Big Sky. Eastern Washington junior Jon Buchanan ranks second at 55-7.

6. With Northern Colorado traveling to Pocatello this weekend, one event to watch is the men’s high jump. UNC junior Trevor Evanson won Big Sky indoor and outdoor titles last year, and his best mark this season of 6-11.5 ranks second in the league, right ahead of Griz junior Lee Hardt, who’s gone 6-11.

Both are trailing Northern Arizona junior Deante Kemper, who has gone a Big Sky-best 7-2.25. Kemper finished second to Evanson at last year’s indoor championships, with Hardt coming in third. At the outdoor championships, Kemper and Hardt tied for second.

Hardt also ranks third in the triple jump with his mark of 46-0.75 at Montana State on Jan. 17. He is one of just five Big Sky athletes this winter to reach the qualifying standard of 44-11.25.

7. Freshman Nicole Stroot’s long jump marks this winter, from Eastern Washington last month to the last two meets at Montana State: 16-8.75, 17-4, 17-11.75. The environment of the Mountain States Games might be just what Stroot needs to hit the Big Sky qualifying standard of 18-4.5.

Stroot, who ranks ninth in the Big Sky, was the Montana Class C long jump champion at Superior High as a junior and senior and Class B state champion as a sophomore. At the 2010 Class B state meet, Stroot, then a freshman, finished third. Future Griz teammate Kellee Glaus, of Whitehall, was the winner.

8. Another freshman making steady improvements: Nolan Nagle, a thrower from Santa Rosa, Calif. Nagle’s marks in the shot put from the same three meets: 43-8, 46-5.5, 48-10.25. And the weight throw: 40-4.75, 42-8.25, 43-5.75.

“Nolan is doing a marvelous job of controlling what he can control, and his meet attitude is just great,” said UM throws coach James Stanton. “He hasn’t gone into a competition yet and faded from any pressure. He’s relaxed yet he’s aggressive.

“He’s being patient with things, knowing that gains will come by working through progressions. I believe he can continue to see improvements every week as we go along.”

Nagle ranks 14th in the Big Sky in the shot put and is outside of the top 16 in the weight throw.

9. Southern Utah is scheduled to compete at Pocatello, and that should mean a head-to-head meeting between SUU senior Kayla Kovar, who has gone 52-8 in the shot put this winter, and Griz sophomore Samantha Hodgson, who has gone 48-4.75. They rank first and third in the Big Sky.

Hodgson has won the shot put all three times she’s competed this winter, and last Friday used her career-best 48-4.75 to finish more than two feet better than athletes from Montana State and Idaho State.

“Sam hasn’t gone into a meet this year when she didn’t know that she could win,” Stanton said. “Now we’re going to a meet where she won’t be the prohibitive favorite and is likely going to lose, and that’s something we haven’t seen yet.

“I’m interested in seeing if she’s ready to take that competition head-on or whether she goes and just throws the way she has been. I’m expecting the competition to bring out another level in her.”

If it does, another school record will be going down, this time Jamie Slyder’s mark of 48-11 from 2001.

10. On paper the Big Sky’s most tightly contested event would be the men’s 400 meters. Only Sacramento State junior Evan Crayton-Crogan, at 48.36, has met the Big Sky standard of 49.10. The next dozen athletes on the performance list, from No. 2 to No. 13, have times between 49.12 and 49.97.

Near the middle of that group is Griz sophomore Dylan Reynolds and his career-best adjusted time last Friday of 49.47.

Upcoming: Montana will return to meets at Montana State the next three Fridays, beginning Feb. 7, leading up to the Big Sky indoor championships, which will be held Feb. 27 through March 1.

— Montana Sports Information

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